Over the past month or so, I’ve been working with a graduate student in Anthropology from the University of Florida, Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, to co-host a HASTAC Scholars forum, on race and ethnicity in the digital age. With the help and guidance of the wonderful Fiona Barnett, director of the HASTAC Scholars program, it has finally gone live! The forum can be found here: Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora in the Digital Age. Through a rigorous process of writing, revision, discussion, and compromise, done over email, Google groups, and Google Wave (a true testament to the affordances of digital communications technologies) we eventually pulled it together.
Through this forum we hope to provoke and encourage honest discussion about the (re)production of race, ethnicity, and otherness in digital spaces (film, news media, blogs, video games, virtual worlds, etc.). Following the Harry Reid controversy early this month, the national dialogues on race (or lack thereof) have been controversial and varied, with many people being actively engaged, and others being violently opposed. Another example of the the backlash against dialogues about race, and especially on the examination of “whiteness” as racial and social category can be seen in the dialogue surrounding Rich Benjamin’s book Searching for Whitetopia. In just bringing up the issue of white privilege and fear of otherness, Benjamin, and others like him, is labeled a racist.
Though most academics across various disciplines accept the fact that race and ethnicity are social constructs (though in very different, sometimes divergent ways), and despite the reluctance or refusal of many in the mainstream in recognizing the relevance of race and ethnicity in the lived experiences of people on- and off-line, race and ethnicity persist. Ignoring it does not make it go away. Hopefully, this forum, a small step in itself, will provoke discussion. It is bound to be uncomfortable, and we hope that many people on HASTAC will not be afraid to participate in this incredibly important discussion.
If you are interested in taking part in this discussion and are not yet a member of HASTAC, please register and join this community of scholars, students, and individuals as we tackle some of the important issues that face us as we enter digital spaces.